Trade Station

A Review of TradeStation
Ranking Summary

Overall Ranking: 3.74 stars out of 5

Ease Of Use: 2.3 stars out of 5

Costs: 2.5 stars out of 5

Educational Resources & Customer Support: 5.0 stars out of 5

Research & Analysis Tools 5.0 stars out of 5

Range Of Product Offerings: 3.9 stars out of 5

Summary: Originally envisioned as a boutique broker for wealthy, experienced technical traders, TradingStation is currently in the process of reinventing themselves as a broker designed for the masses.

Recommended For: TradingStation’s work to transform itself into a broker for everyone is still a work in progress. At this point, we can only recommend this one for experienced traders or especially tech-savvy intermediate-level traders who can handle the steep learning curve. It’s not a newbie-friendly platform (yet).

Introduction

Are you looking for an online investment platform to further your growing account balances? Or maybe you’re just starting out in the world of investing and looking for a broker to get started with.
In either case, although TradeStation isn’t a perfect fit for everyone, the company has built a very good platform and is well worth considering.
The Florida-based company began life way back in 1982 as a platform that focused primarily on well-heeled, experienced technical traders, but since 2019, TradeStation has worked hard to make itself more accessible to novices and a broader class of investors overall.
While it’s certainly true that the platform is still geared toward technical traders with experience, they have had some success in building a more user friendly platform that most anyone can get something out of. The central question is, are they right for you?
Ultimately, it depends, but that’s not a very satisfying answer, so in the sections that follow, we’ll take an in-depth look at exactly what the company has to offer and what the platform’s strengths and weaknesses are. That way, you’ll have all the information you need to make a good decision. Let’s take a peek under the hood and see what TradeStation is all about.

Ease Of Use (2.3 stars out of 5)

The first thing to mention about the platform is that there are two variants to choose from: TSgo, and TS Select. There is no minimum deposit needed to open an account on the TSgo platform, but TS Select requires a $2000 minimum.
Although there are plenty of brokers that don’t have a minimum deposit requirement, $2000 is low enough that TS Select is a viable option for most potential investors.
In addThe first thing to mention about the platform is that there are two variants to choose from: TSgo, and TS Select. There is no minimum deposit needed to open an account on the TSgo platform, but TS Select requires a $2000 minimum.
Although there are plenty of brokers that don’t have a minimum deposit requirement, $2000 is low enough that TS Select is a viable option for most potential investors.
In addition to that, the company also launched a separate brokerage division called TradeStation Crypto, Inc, that, as the name suggests, specializes in trading cryptocurrency.
When you set up your account, you’ll be able to access trading data one of three ways: TradeStation 10, which is the company’s web-based platform, a downloadable piece of software bearing the same name and with all the same features, or a mobile app (available for both Android or iOS devices) that’s equally robust.
If your primary interest is in Futures trading, you’ll use a separate platform called FuturesPlus.
The asset classes you have available for trading depend on the type of account you set up. The process of opening an account is simple and streamlined but learning to use TradeStation 10 well and effectively can be a daunting proposition.
This has everything to do with the company’s history as a platform built to serve the needs of experienced, technical traders.
Everything about the platform can be customized but you’ll probably just want to leave things as they are until you gain some familiarity with the system as a whole and develop a feel for what tools you’ll be using on a regular basis. Once you reach that point, you can start arranging the trading desktop to taste, putting your preferred tools front and center.
Also be aware that there are nearly a hundred third-party applications you can connect to your workspace via the API, including Yahoo Finance, VectorVest, TradingView, and dozens of others. The flexibility is incredible but only serves to increase the slope of the learning curve further.
If that wasn’t enough, TradeStation also has their own proprietary coding language called EasyLanguage which can be used to build the most advanced trading strategies imaginable, and conduct back testing to your heart’s content. Of course, to make use of it, you’ll need to spend yet more time mastering the language and then putting it to use, which increases the slope of the learning curve even more.
Long story short, this platform isn’t for the faint of heart. If you don’t consider yourself to be very tech savvy, you’ll probably spend the first few weeks in varying degrees of frustration.
You can place every type of order, including advanced, conditionally based orders, but again, there’s a steep learning curve and although there are instructional videos and help files available, it’s still going to take a serious amount of time before you feel as though you really have a handle on the system and can start getting the most out of it.

Costs (2.5 stars out of 5)

The way TradeStation’s costs are structured favors highly active traders. If that’s not you, then you’ll find the fees to be somewhat higher than average, although in 2019, the company worked hard to bring their costs more in line with their competitors and have had some success on that front.
The most attractive part of the platform from a cost perspective is the fact that you can trade stocks, ETFs, or penny stocks (OTCBB) free, with no commissions for the first 10,000 shares. Anything beyond that incurs a charge of $0.005 per share (resetting at the first of each month).
There’s also no per-leg commissions on options trades and per-contract commissions are only $0.60 ($0.50 if you’re a TSgo user).
There are a number of mutual funds that can be purchased with no commission, but if you venture outside the band, the fee is $14.95 per transaction. Margin interest rates are about average, and at the time that this review was written ranged from 8.75% for accounts valued at more than $100,000, and 9.5% for accounts valued at less than $10,000.
Where Futures are concerned, you’ll pay $1.50 per contract, per side, or $0.85 on TSgo.
TradeStation chares a hefty $50 a month inactivity fee, but it’s actually fairly easy to have that fee waived. All you have to do is maintain an end of month balance of more than $2000 or have placed at least 5 trades over the course of the previous twelve months.
The biggest problem lies in the fact that it’s not always easy to find precise information about what your costs will be. Mostly, that’s because there’s just an overwhelming amount of information available on the platform and until you’re familiar with it, finding any “one thing” can be a real struggle. As with almost every other aspect of TradeStation, “it’s complicated.”
Unfortunately, pricing doesn’t need to be and shouldn’t be complicated. That’s unfortunate, and because of how difficult TradeStation makes figuring out exactly what your costs will be, we deducted points from them where this measure is concerned.

Educational Resources & Customer Support (5.0 stars out of 5)

The company does very well on this front, although their approach to providing educational resources is a bit different than you’ll find with most brokers.
The company acquired YouCanTrade.com, which they use to host online courses that focus on investing. You’ll find a lot here, but it’s essentially a standalone educational system that exists entirely separate from the trading platform itself.

TradeStation’s customer service and support has been a hallmark of the company since the earliest days. It’s exceptional. Our only real complaints on this front are as follows:

  • Unlike a lot of brokers, they don’t offer 24/7 phone support. It’s only available from 8am to 8pm weekdays (Eastern Time).
  • And although access to a live broker is easy to come by, if you place a trade with a broker, you’re charged a $50 surcharge, which is on the hefty side.

In addition to phone support, you’ll find a chat box prominently displayed on the website, with human agents available during the same hours that phone support is available.

Research & Analysis Tools (5.0 stars out of 5)

TradeStation is known for two things: Outstanding customer service and support and exceptionally robust research tools. This is, hands down, the best aspect of the company’s product offering.
The heart and soul of TradeStation’s portfolio analysis is a tool called ‘Portfolio Maestro’ that gives you an amazing, comprehensive view of your portfolio. You can start by viewing the performance of your portfolio at a high level, then drill down on each symbol, getting as granular as you like.
There are also help tools that make refining your strategy easy by allowing you to zoom in on exactly what is and is not working about your current strategy.
Even better, the company offers a trading apps store that provide even more tools, allowing you to take portfolio analysis to a whole new level.
The charting feature offered by TradingStation is out of this world. If you like, you can create a visual representation on every trade you’ve done, and you’ve got access to a superb set of drawing tools, and can even add notes on each chart you create.
Their massive database has more than forty years’ worth of historical pricing data, which gives you unparalleled ability to back test your strategies and really come to grips with the strength of your financial and market analysis.
When running tests of your strategies you can generate reports that offer an in-depth look at its overall effectiveness, including a whole host of profitability and financial measures.

If that’s not enough, you’ll find screeners for the following investment classes available

  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Options
  • Mutual Funds
  • And Fixed Income Investments

Still not enough? Not to worry, there’s more. TradeStation offers just about every type of calculator you can imagine and probably a few you hadn’t even considered, and that’s on top of a robust trading idea generator and access to ten different livestreaming news sources.
Where research and analysis are concerned, TradingStation represents the gold standard. The only real downside is that it’s yet another aspect of the platform that further increases the slope of the learning curve.

Range Of Product Offerings (3.9 stars out of 5)

TradeStation makes a large collection of trading classes available to their members, including the fairly recent addition of cryptocurrencies. Unfortunately, in the case of cryptocurrencies, if you want to trade them, you’ll have to download and master the use of yet another app, which, you guessed it, further increases the slope of the learning curve.
In addition to that, you’ll find:

  • Stocks long and short
  • Penny Stocks (OTCBB)
  • Mutual Funds
  • Corporate, Municipal and Treasury Bonds
  • And Futures and Futures Options

There’s a lot to like here and you’ll find no shortage of trading opportunities, but of course, as a US-based broker, note that CFDs are not included in this list.

Pros And Cons

This is an unquestionably great platform, with only one negative to speak of. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly huge negative. The TradingStation platform is crazy hard to use. It’s got a steeper learning curve than anything we’ve ever seen.
If you create an account and look around, you can certainly find evidence of the company’s efforts to make the platform more user and newbie friendly. It’s a very good start, but if we’re being honest, it’s also still very much a work in progress. Given another 3-5 years of work, it’s entirely possible that the company’s management team will fully transform the platform.
As things stand now though, they haven’t, and unless you’re already an experienced, tech savvy technical trader, you’re going to be overwhelmed and frustrated. Possibly even to the point that you throw your hands up in disgust and give up on trading altogether. The learning curve is that steep.

Conclusion

Despite its almost freakishly difficult learning curve, we actually like this platform more than its overall scout might indicate. It’s a masterpiece of design, but only if you’re technically savvy enough to cope with learning one (and possibly more than one) platform that’s loaded to the gills with technical information and master a programming language so you can make the most out of it.
Despite the fact that the company has been working hard to make this platform newbie friendly, it isn’t yet. It’s technical roots run deep and it’s going to take a while yet to make it more accessible to those who don’t already have a lot of trading experience.
On that basis, we can’t recommend this platform at all for novice investors, or even for intermediate level investors who aren’t tech savvy.
On the other hand, if you’re experienced and tech savvy, this place is a goldmine of opportunity and capability, and we happily recommend it.